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The FitBit Activity Tracker (on the website, Android application, and I would presume the iPhone application as well) lets you log various activities so you can track and share them with your friends. You can explicitly log things like running, using a treadmill or elliptical, or other activities that would also cause the device to count steps and miles. The device (and the website) also track your calories burned based on your profile, and when you track activities, it also estimates the calories burned based on the type, duration, and other parameters of the activity.

I've been trying to determine how exactly FitBit uses the activity tracker data. Does it convert miles run to steps (meaning wearing my FitBit when tracking a treadmill activity would cause double counting)? Or perhaps is the device smart enough, based on the start time of the activity, to not double count? Or are the things like distance, time, and calories burned in the activity not totaled with your device data?

I'm mainly concerned with the things tracked by the device: steps, flights of stairs, miles, and calories burned. At the end of the day, I'd like at least a reasonable estimate of these things.

I couldn't find anything in the FitBit FAQs as to what is recommended, nor many discussions on how others deal with this.

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Which specific model do you have? I believe the different models use different sensors, which could affect the answer. –  Ivo Flipse Dec 1 '12 at 8:33
    
@IvoFlipse I mentioned in my title that I have a FitBit One. Based on Kate's answer, it appears that the One and the Ultra behave the same, so I'm not entirely sure the model is relevant to how the website deals with data being entered through it (or an app) and from a device sync. –  Thomas Owens Dec 1 '12 at 11:29
    
I must have Read over it. I thought I read the Ultra uses a barometric sensor, which probably wouldn't be useful on a treadmill. However, it seems it also has an accelerometer, which should be capable of detecting running on a treadmill –  Ivo Flipse Dec 1 '12 at 12:50
    
@IvoFlipse There is an altimeter in the FitBit One that equates one flight of stairs to an elevation increase of about 10 feet. I think that's the only thing it's used for, though. –  Thomas Owens Dec 1 '12 at 14:37
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2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Here's how I do do it (I have a fitbit one).

When I'm doing an activity that I think the fitbit won't track properly (biking, or a sport), I switch to recording/sleep mode (they're the same). I only do this so that I can remember how long that activity took.

Then, using the web interface later, I enter the actual activity, time, and duration (using info from my recording mode to have accurate start/stop times).

The activity section of the manual says "All steps and calories recorded by your tracker are overridden for the duration of a manually logged activity by the activity's entered values. This ensures that your steps are not counted twice as long as the manually logged activity has the correct start time and duration."

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Do you think that a treadmill would be tracked properly? Or if you use a treadmill, do you use recording mode? It seems pretty close to running. –  Thomas Owens Dec 1 '12 at 0:20
    
I don't use a treadmill, but because the fitbit is based on a pedometer, it should be able to track treadmill steps and distance as accurately as it would outdoor running. –  Kate Dec 1 '12 at 1:07
    
I found somebody else's testimonial: myfitnesspal.com/topics/show/684979-fitbit-v-treadmill Looks like steps and distance are pretty accurate, and calorie count might be even better estimated by the fitbit than the treadmill. –  Kate Dec 1 '12 at 1:17
    
In my experience, it tracks steps on a treadmill pretty well. But actual distance is tracked pretty terrible. I guess this might depend on how long steps / kind of stride you use on the treadmill. I'm in terrible shape (extremely obese) and guess I have a completely different stride than some of you guys. –  Fuzzy76 Jan 31 '13 at 20:24
    
Great answer, for activities with a lot of step-type movement I rarely find it necessary to use recording mode. When I play ultimate frisbee I just look at the graph and I know when it began and ended within 5 minutes because that's when I stopped moving. (Hell, you can even tell when the games end and we stop for a water break.) –  Cory Sep 28 '13 at 18:17
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I walk 2 - 3 miles on treadmill. Wearing Fitbit it calculates only about half of that. Returned because there is no way I am going to count the steps and input manually on computer. This is very accurate when walking outdoors, but living in the North I need to use treadmill. Not worth it.

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If you log the activity, you don't need to count steps manually. If you use the mobile app or website to record the start time, the duration, and the distance walked, the steps will populate accordingly based on your stride length (assuming you entered at least your height on the settings, if not a custom stride length). See the technique presented in the accepted answer. –  Thomas Owens 2 days ago
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